Cat Care

Is Bleach a Good Way to Clean Up Cat Litter Box Accidents?

Everyone knows cats make great pets; easy to care for, snuggly and cute, happily engage in play and antics.

All you have to do is clean out the litterbox every day and feed them, and they do all the rest, right?

Well, in some cases that is how cat ownership works out, but in other cases, they actually need training in where to scratch appropriately and how to use the litterbox.

And some cats spray. Yes, they spray urine on things like your couch and sliding glass door as a way of marking their territory. 

Cat urine reeks

If your cat normally just quietly uses the litterbox for its business you may not have realized that cat urine reeks.

Yes, it has a very powerful and unique smell that we all hope you never have to experience.

However, if you are here reading this article, odds are you have already realized this and are wondering how to clean it up and get rid of the smell. 

Should I use bleach for the cat urine?

Short answer: NO, NEVER. Even shorter answer: NO. 

Never ever apply bleach to a cat urine mess. But, you say, my toilet bowl cleaner drop-in has bleach in it, surely it is good to clean up toileting messes?

According to Quora, Maybe for clearing out a stain or two in a toilet that has been flushed free of fresh human urine, but many people have reported bad effects of mixing bleach with stale urine, especially with cat urine. 

The ammonia in the urine (and cat urine has a lot of ammonia in it) reacts with the bleach to produce chlorine gas.

Chlorine gas is not only toxic (aka, you might pass out or die while bleaching your cat’s pee indiscretion) but it is also explosive.

When applied to urine in a confined space it has been known to cause toilets to explode and other unfortunate events.

The Washington State Department of Health strongly recommends against mixing bleach with ammonia. 

So, how do you clean it up?

The first thing you need to do is remove as much of the liquid as possible. If it’s on a hard surface like your kitchen floor, you can mop it up.

If it’s on a carpet or soaked into your couch, try blotting up as much of the liquid as possible with paper towels.

COIT Cleaning and Restoration suggests using a wet/dry shop vacuum to assist in this process.

Then, dilute liquid dishwashing solution into warm water and apply to the soiled area, let soak for a few minutes, then vacuum it up and repeat several times. Allow the area to dry. 

OK, I cleaned it up, but it STILL SMELLS

This is not unusual at all; after you remove the bulk urine, you need to remove the remaining chemicals that are producing the odor.

It is best to buy a product specially designed to remove pet smells by breaking down the chemicals causing the odor.

Do not be tempted to apply perfume or Febreze to the stain; all these do is briefly cover up the odor.

The same effect is seen when you try to mask it by burning scented candles or running an essential diffuser. By the way, if you are into essential oils, please keep in mind that the Pet Poison Hotline says they are toxic to cats. 

Anyway, consider buying some Nature’s Miracle or other people swear by Odoban. Follow the instructions listed for the product you select. 

I did that, but it STILL SMELLS

Unfortunately, if the cat urine gets down into the carpet underpadding or floorboards, you may need to have your carpet professionally cleaned in order to completely eliminate the lingering odor.

A similar situation applies to furniture: if the urine soaked in deeply into the upholstery, professional cleaning or in the worst case the complete replacement of the carpet or piece of furniture may be necessary to completely eliminate the problem.

Before you reel in horror, try to retain perspective: it is not uncommon for the houses of cat hoarders to be condemned and torn down after officials realize it is impossible to remove that much cat urine smell from the house. 

How to prevent cat urine soiling

Now that you have hopefully fixed your current cat pee mishap, the next thing to consider is how to prevent any future cat pee mishaps. The most common reason for cats to not use their litterbox is because they don’t like it.

Apparently, cats are quite picky about their toileting facilities. The litterbox should be placed in a nice quiet location where the cat can have privacy, should be large enough for the cat to easily fit inside and move around, and should be cleaned daily.

Some cats have definite preferences for specific types of the litter so there may be some trial and error in your future.

There is also another option: cats can be trained to use a human toilet instead of a litterbox. 

What about cat spraying?

The most common cause of a cat spraying is because it’s an unneutered tomcat, so a quick trip to the vet can fix that problem; it may take a few weeks after the snip before the cat’s hormone levels drop enough that it stops spraying.

Another common cause of cat spraying is because someone else’s cat is lurking around outside the windows, triggering the cat to try to mark its territory.

In that case, you can make efforts to keep the strange cat off your property using a repellant or by speaking to its owner.

Alternatively, covering the glass door/window with a curtain can sometimes easily solve the problem.

If the cat is marking out of anxiety, the ASPCA suggests speaking to your veterinarian about getting anti-anxiety medication. 

In conclusion, let us remind you of the original question and answer that sparked this article: Should I use bleach to clean up cat urine? Answer: NO.

Related: Save my Stuff! How Can I Stop My Cat From Spraying?

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